Guest Editorial


John HoeppnerCave Creek may need council re-do over town manager debacle

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The new gang at town hall can’t seem to shoot straight regarding the Town Manager position. Consider the three big blunders that have and will cost the Town of Cave Creek hundreds of thousands if not millions of taxpayer dollars over the next three years.

1.  Immediate and surreptitious removal of Town Manager Usama Abujbarah resulting in a $3 million employment lawsuit

2.  Vice Mayor Adam Trenk’s nomination and advocacy to hire “no-experience” interim Town Manager Rodney Glassman for $10,000 per month. Glassman was a former aide to Arizona Congressman Raúl Grijalva (D), notorious for promoting a boycott of Arizona businesses

3.  Enigmatic insider committee to select permanent town manager without citizens from the community involved

Town Manager Usama Abujbarah: Certainly the Council has the right to terminate the Town Manager. However, they did not have the right to do it stupidly.

In a previous Sonoran News Guest Editorial (July 10, 2013) I wrote, “The only logical reason for immediate termination of a town manager is criminal activity or any action that may endanger the health, safety or welfare of the community. The proper course of action should have been a professional and formal review of the Town Manager’s performance, public input, a vote and an orderly and zero cost transition to a permanent manager.”

On 6/11/2013, I sent an e-mail to the Cave Creek Town Council regarding the immediate termination of Usama Abujbarah that read in part:

Dear New Town Council: I am disappointed that the first action the new council has taken seems to so divisive. In my opinion, a position as a community servant is about leadership not vengeance.

I am certain the Town will either be sued for breach of an employment contract or will have to settle for a significant sum of money plus legal fees. I believe Usama's contact runs for more than a year and will be a waste of the Town's time scarce financial resources.”

My e-mail went on to point out that hiring Rodney Glassman as the interim Town Manager was a mistake. Later that same day I received an e-mail from Vice Mayor Adam Trenk defending his decision to appoint Mr. Glassman and ridiculing my comment concerning the Town’s exposure to expensive litigation.

6/11/2013 9:33:56 P.M. US Mountain Standard Time, writes:

Your personal belief that the town will be sued is an irrational one. Mr. Abujbarah was employed at will, and his contract spells out the terms of early termination. Moreover in order to collect his severance he needs to sign a release, disqualifying any potential law suit. Thus he must choose between a meritless lawsuit and a golden parachute packed for him by previous administrations.”

Interim Town Manager Rodney Glassman: The interim Town Manager was given three tasks to accomplish during his 6 month $10,000 per month contract. The three tasks are as follows:

1. Conduct a forensic audit of the previous Town Manager (Fail – Incomplete)
2. Recruit a permanent Town Manager (Fail – Secretive)
3. Manage Town Staff (Fail – Staff has no direction)

It is clear, even to the casual observer, that the aforementioned responsibilities are epic fail on all accounts. Regarding the forensic audit, supporters of the Trenk, Durkin, Monachino and Spitzer slate told me to be patient and that JAG attorney Glassman would conduct an audit that would prove the previous town manager was a dishonest crook. Where’s the beef?

Excluding citizens from a committee to select the permanent Town Manager is a mistake and brings into question the credibility of the process.

The management of the Town staff has been problematic. The staff is not receiving any real direction and is demoralized by the uncertainty and lack of leadership.

Town Manager Selection: The process to select the permanent Town Manager should be inclusive rather than exclusive. The self-appointed insider “candidate screening” committee includes non-residents Rodney Glassman and Scott Smith, the Mayor of Mesa, and Mayor Vince Francia and Vice Mayor Adam Trenk. What does Rodney Glassman know about being a good town manager? Why is Scott Smith the Mayor of the third largest city in Arizona involved? What does a city of 500,000 have in common with a town of 5,000? Why does this exclusive group of politicians get to choose the three candidates for final consideration absent citizen input?

Recently a Cave Creek Community Government and Issues study was conducted. On an academic grading scale of A to F, 57 percent of the respondents gave Cave Creek Interim Town Manager Rodney Glassman a grade of “F”. Cave Creek Vice Mayor Adam Trenk came in a close second to the Town Manager with 55 percent assigning him with an “F” grade for his performance.

Cave Creek is a great place to live. Many in the community have worked hard over the years to provide for a quality of life second to none. However, it is evident that the Town government lacks leadership, financial accountability ($20,000 for giant stainless steel horse hood ornaments and $80,000 for road maintenance software) and the support of the majority of long-term Cave Creek citizens.

The Trenk, Durkin, Monachino and Spitzer slate rode into town hall on a nefarious horse of negativity. They pistol-whipped the previous council members for an out-of-control budget and branded the former town manager a modern day outlaw. Yet, just a few days after taking office, the new council passed, without making a single change, the previous council’s $17,000,000 budget. Trenk, Durkin, Monachino and Spitzer advocated and hired a town manager with zero town manager experience, paid him $10,000 a month plus expenses and then gave him a raise! Are you kidding me?

The question Cave Creek voters have to ask themselves is simple. Can we trust these folks with our town for the next three years?

John Hoeppner served on the 1985-86 Cave Creek Incorporating Committee and twenty-years as the Republican Cave Creek Precinct Captain and State Committeeman. John is recognized worldwide as a leading expert in the discipline of brand research and development. He has received five prestigious AMA Edison Awards for domestic and global Fortune 500 clientele.